ExxonMobil protest

Several East Baton Rouge Parish teachers groups as well as Together Baton Rouge are gathering outside of today’s school board meeting to request a meeting with ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods to discuss the corporation’s request for property tax abatements under the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program, or ITEP.

In a letter to Woods, TBR and the teachers’ groups asks the CEO to “withdraw a request by local representatives of your company to have ExxonMobil exempted from paying school property taxes on more than $150 million of its property at its refinery, chemicals, plastics and polyolefins units in Baton Rouge.”

The letter goes on to suggest the exemptions, if granted, would cost EBR schools some $6.2 million in lost revenue, also noting the projects for which the exemptions are being sought were completed in March 2017.

While it’s true the projects have been completed, the ITEP applications have been on hold for nearly two years and ExxonMobil has not brought them back up to the state, a company spokeswoman says.

More recently, however, ExxonMobil has applied to the state for a tax abatement under ITEP for a new construction project, costing several hundred million dollars, at its polyolefins complex in north Baton Rouge.

If granted, the project is expected to create some 65 jobs, but if the ITEP is denied, the project may go elsewhere, according to a company spokesperson.

The letter from TBR and the teacher’s groups, as well as the planned press conference at today’s school board meeting, suggests the controversial ITEP debate is reigniting at the local level months after a brief absence from public discourse.